Polity & Governance
- India unveils geographical indication logo, tagline
- Cabinet clears Bill to restore the provisions of SC/ST Act
Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves extension of Concessional Financing Scheme (CFS)
- Policy Framework for exploration and exploitation of Unconventional Hydrocarbons
- Government launches the scheme – ‘Seva Bhoj Yojna’
Issues related to Health & Education
- Govt panel calls for lifting ban on retailing oxytocin
- Centre imposes 25% safeguard duty on import of solar cells
- Nationwide ‘State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index’ released
Key Facts for Prelims
- China launches Gaofen-11
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Polity & Governance
India unveils geographical indication logo, tagline
Union government has launched a logo and tagline for Geographical Indications (GI) to increase awareness about intellectual property rights (IPRs) in the country.
- From now on, the GI-registered goods will sport the logo and the tagline to make them more attractive.
What is a Geographical Indication?
- A ‘geographical indication’ (GI) is a place name used to identify the origin and quality, reputation or other characteristics of products.
Why is it important?
- Article 22 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement says unless a geographical indication is protected in the country of its origin, there is no obligation under the agreement for other countries to extend reciprocal protection.
- Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin.
- Products sold with the GI tag get premium pricing also.
GI registration confers:
- Legal protection to the products.
- Prevents unauthorised use of a GI by others.
- Helps consumers get quality products of desired traits.
- Promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods by enhancing demand in national and international markets.
GI registration is essential to get protection in other countries.
GIs and international conventions:
- Under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, geographical indications are covered as an element of IPRs.
- They are also covered under Articles 22 to 24 of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which was part of the agreements concluded at the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations.
- India, as member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 that came into force from September 15, 2003.
Some popular registered GIs in India:
- Some of the popular registered GIs in India are Mysore Silk, Mysore Agarbathi, Kancheepuram Silk, Orissa Ikat, Channapatna Toys & Dolls, and Coimbatore Wet Grinder, Mysore Pak (sweet), Tanjavur Veena, Pusa Basmati 1 (a high-yielding variety of scented Basmati rice) etc.
- A total of 320 products have been conferred the GI status in India so far.
- Karnataka comes first with 38 GI products, followed by Maharashtra which has 32 products.
- Tamil Nadu comes third with 25 GI products.
Cabinet clears Bill to restore the provisions of SC/ST Act
The Centre has decided to introduce a Bill to restore the original provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which the Supreme Court had struck down in a March ruling.
What’s the issue?
- On March 20, the Supreme Court issued a slew of guidelines to protect people against arbitrary arrests under the Act, directing that public servants could be arrested only with the written permission of their appointing authority, while in the case of private employees, the Senior Superintendent of Police concerned should allow it.
- The court ruled that a preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the FIR was registered to check if the case fell within the ambit of the Act, and whether it was frivolous or motivated.
- The ruling was greeted by a storm of protest from Dalit groups, which said the order diluted the law. However, the court refused to stay its ruling, leading to the demand from Dalit groups that the government introduce an ordinance or an Amendment Bill to restore the provisions.
Three new clauses:
The Amendment Bill seeks to insert three new clauses after Section 18 of the original Act.
- The first stipulates that for the purposes of the Act, “preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of a First Information Report against any person.”
- The second stipulates that the arrest of a person accused of having committed an offence under the Act would not require any approval.
- The third says that the provisions of Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure — which deals with anticipatory bail — shall not apply to a case under this Act, “notwithstanding any judgment or order of any Court.”
About Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act:
The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is popularly known as POA, the SC/ST Act, the Prevention of Atrocities Act, or simply the Atrocities Act.
- The SC/ST Act was enacted on September 9, 1989. The rules for the Act were notified on March 31, 1995.
- The prime objective of the SC/ST Act is to deliver justice to marginalised through proactive efforts, giving them a life of dignity, self-esteem and a life without fear, violence or suppression from the dominant castes.
- The SC/ST Act lists 22 offences relating to various patterns or behaviours inflicting criminal offences and breaking the self-respect and esteem of the scheduled castes and tribes community. This includes denial of economic, democratic and social rights, discrimination, exploitation and abuse of the legal process.
- According to the SC/ST Act, the protection is provided from social disabilities such as denial of access to certain places and to use customary passage, personal atrocities like forceful drinking or eating of inedible food sexual exploitation, injury etc, atrocities affecting properties, malicious prosecution, political disabilities and economic exploitation.
- For speedy trial, Section 14 of the SC/ST Act provides for a Court of Session to be a Special Court to try offences under this Act in each district.
Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves extension of Concessional Financing Scheme (CFS)
The Union Cabinet has approved the first extension of Concessional Financing Scheme (CFS) for another five years from 2018 to 2023 to support Indian Entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad.
- Under the CFS, the Govt. of India has been supporting Indian Entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad since 2015-16.
Implementation strategy and targets:
- Under the Scheme, MEA selects the specific projects keeping in view strategic interest of India and sends the same to Department of Economic Affairs (DEA).
- The strategic importance of a project to deserve financing under this Scheme, is decided, on a case to case basis, by a Committee chaired by Secretary, DEA.
- Once approved by the Committee, DEA issues a formal letter to EXIM Bank conveying approval for financing of the project under CFS.
- The Scheme is presently being operated through the Export-Import Bank of India, which raises resources from the market to provide concessional finance.
- Government of India (GoI) provides counter guarantee and interest equalization support of 2% to the EXIM Bank.
- Under the Scheme, EXIM Bank extends credit at a rate not exceeding LIBOR (avg. of six months) + 100 bps. The repayment of the loan is guaranteed by the foreign govt.
- Prior to the introduction of CFS, Indian entities were not able to bid for large projects abroad since the cost of financing was very high for them and bidders from other countries such as China, Japan, Europe and US were able to provide credit at superior terms, i.e., lower interest rate and longer tenures which works to the advantage of bidders from those countries.
- Also, by having projects of strategic interest to India executed by Indian entities, the CFS enables India to generate substantial backward linkage induced jobs, demand for material and machinery in India and also a lot of goodwill for India.
Policy Framework for exploration and exploitation of Unconventional Hydrocarbons
Union Cabinet has approved policy framework to permit exploration and exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons such as Shale oil/gas, Coal Bed Methane (CBM) etc.
- It will be carried out under existing Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs), CBM contracts and Nomination fields to encourage existing contractors in licensed or leased area to unlock full potential of unconventional hydrocarbons in existing acreages.
- With the approval of this policy, there will be complete shift from One hydrocarbon Resource Type to Uniform Licensing Policy which is presently applicable in Discovered Small Field (DSF) Policy and Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP).
Benefits of this Policy Framework:
- This policy will enable the realization of prospective hydrocarbon reserves in existing contract areas which otherwise would have remain unexplored and unexploited.
- It will give impetus to new investment in exploration and production (E&P) activities and chances of finding new hydrocarbon discoveries and increasing domestic production.
- It will also spur exploration and exploitation of additional hydrocarbon resources giving impetus to new investment, economic activities, additional employment generation and thus benefitting various sections of society.
- This will also lead to induction of new, innovative and cutting-edge technology and forging new technological collaboration to exploit unconventional hydrocarbons.
- Under existing contractual regime of PSCs, existing contractors are not allowed to explore and exploit CBM or other unconventional hydrocarbons in already allotted licensed or leased area. Similarly, CBM contractors are not allowed to exploit any other hydrocarbon except CBM.
- Acreages held at present by various contractors in PSCs and CBM blocks and National Oil Companies (NOCs) in nomination regime constitute a significant part of India’s sedimentary basin.
Government launches the scheme – ‘Seva Bhoj Yojna’
Union Ministry of Culture has launched the new scheme namely ‘Seva Bhoj Yojna’ with a total outlay of Rs. 325.00 Crores for Financial Years 2018-19 and 2019-20.
- The new scheme will provide financial assistance on purchase of specific food items by Charitable Religious Institutions (CRIs) for free distribution among people.
- Under this scheme, Centre’s share of Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and Interstate GST charged on raw food materials purchased by the religious institutions will be refunded.
About ‘Seva Bhoj Yojna’:
- The scheme seeks to reimburse the central government’s share of Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and Integrated Goods and Service Tax (IGST) on purchase of raw items such as ghee, edible oil, atta, maida, rava, flour, rice pulses, sugar and jaggery, which go into preparation of food/prasad/langar/bhandara offered free of cost by religious institutions.
- The main objective of the scheme is to lessen the financial burden of such charitable religious institutions, which provide free of cost without any discrimination to the general public and devotees.
The charitable religious institutions including temples, gurudwara, mosque, church, dharmik ashram, dargah, monasteries, which fulfill the following criteria are eligible for the grant:
- The institutions that have been in existence for at least five years before applying for financial assistance/grant.
- The institutions that serve free food to at least 5000 people in a month.
- The institutions covered under Section 10 (23BBA) of the Income Tax Act or those registered as Society under Societies Registration Act (XXI of 1860) or as a Public Trust under any law for the time being in force of statuary religious bodies constituted under any Act or institutions registered under Section 12AA of Income Tax Act.
- All eligible religious and charitable institutions first must register with Darpan portal of NITI Aayog and get Unique ID generated by it.
- Thereafter, they shall enroll themselves in CSMS Portal on the Ministry of Culture’s website in prescribed format. The applications will be examined by committee constituted for purpose.
- On basis of recommendation of committee, competent authority in Ministry of Culture will register these institutions for reimbursing claim of CGST and Central Government share of IGST paid on mentioned specific items.
Issues related to Health & Education
Govt panel calls for lifting ban on retailing oxytocin
The Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) has recommended to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that the ban on the retail sale of the life-saving drug, oxytocin, may be lifted.
What is Oxytocin?
- Oxytocin is a hormone that is made in the brain, in the hypothalamus. It is transported to, and secreted by, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.
- It acts both as a hormone and as a brain neurotransmitter.
- The release of oxytocin by the pituitary gland acts to regulate two female reproductive functions: Childbirth and Breast-feeding.
- Oxytocin has also been dubbed the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone due to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and in female reproductive biological functions in reproduction.
Why ban on its sale?
- The drug is used by dairy owners and farmers to boost milk production and make vegetables look bigger and fresher. But, it was found that indiscriminate use of Oxytocin in milch animals and by farmers was causing irreversible hormone damage.
- Despite it being a Schedule H drug, it is impossible to prevent its manufacturing at registered private factories.
- Implications to human health are humongous, from reproductive complications to hormonal imbalances.
- One major reason for such blatant misuse of this drug is the absence of robust veterinary services in India.
- In March 2016, the Himachal Pradesh High Court directed the Central government to “consider the feasibility of restricting the manufacture of Oxytocin only in public sector companies and also restricting and limiting the manufacture by companies to whom licences have already been granted.”
- The manufacture and sale of Oxytocin without a licence is a cognisable.
Centre imposes 25% safeguard duty on import of solar cells
The Centre issued a notification putting into effect a safeguard duty of 25% on import of solar cells from China and Malaysia.
- According to analysts, while the move is aimed at helping the domestic solar cell manufacturing sector, it could affect existing projects dependent on cheap imports.
What is Safeguard Duty?
- Safeguard Duty is levied on the commodities by domestic governments/authorities to ensure that imports in excessive quantities do not cause injury to the domestic industry.
- Safeguard duties are temporary measures in defense of the Domestic Industry which is injured or has potential threat of injury due to sudden surge in imports.
- It helps in creating a level playing field for Indian manufacturers and importers.
- India has around half-a-dozen makers of solar cells and modules, with a total capacity of around 3,000 MW. This is hardly enough to meet the country’s burgeoning demand.
- While the safeguard duty now puts locally-made panels on par with imported ones in terms of cost, the domestic sector needs to do a lot more to be effective.
- Domestic sector is not being fully exploited because of obsolete technology. Moreover, price of solar equipment produced in the country is not competitive as compared to that of foreign manufacturers, especially Chinese manufacturers.
- Domestic sector needs to do lot more to be effective meet required standards as compared to imported solar cells. They also need to improve technology.
Nationwide ‘State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index’ released
Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE) have jointly released the ‘State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index’.
About the index:
- The index assesses state policies and programmes aimed at improving energy efficiency across various sectors.
- It is a joint effort of the NITI Aayog and BEE.
- It will help in implementing national energy efficiency initiatives in states and meet both State as well as national goals on energy security, energy access and climate change.
- It has 63 indicators across Building, Industry, Municipality, Transport, Agriculture and DISCOM with 4 cross-cutting indicators.
- States are categorised based on their efforts and achievements towards energy efficiency implementation, as ‘Front Runner’, ‘Achiever’, ‘Contender’ and ‘Aspirant’.
Highlights of the index report:
- The ‘Front Runner’ states in the inaugural edition of the Index are: Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Rajasthan based on available data.
- Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Haryana have been categorised in the second best category of ‘achiever’ states.
About Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE):
- BEE was set up under the Ministry of Power in March 2002 under the provisions of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
- Its mission is to assist in developing policies and strategies with a thrust on self-regulation and market principles, within the overall framework of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 with the primary objective of reducing energy intensity of the Indian economy.
Key Facts for Prelims
China launches Gaofen-11
- China launched Gaofen-11, an optical remote sensing satellite, as part of the country’s High-resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS).
- The Gaofen-11 satellite was launched on a Long March 4B rocket.
- It was the 282nd flight mission by a Long March carrier rocket.
- The satellite can be used for land survey, urban planning, road network design, agriculture, and disaster relief.
- Data from the satellite will also be used for the Belt and Road Initiative.
- It was initiated in 2010 to provide all-weather, all-day coverage by 2020 with optical and synthetic aperture radar satellites
- It could also include airborne and near-space systems such as stratospheric balloons.